Thomas W. Ferkol Jr., MD, has been named the first Alexis Hartmann, MD, Professor in Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Ferkol is director of the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. In addition, he is professor of cell biology and physiology and director of the pediatric pulmonology fellowship program and of the pediatric pulmonary function laboratory at the School of Medicine.
Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, and Alan L. Schwartz, PhD, MD, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head of the Department of Pediatrics, announced the appointment. Ferkol will be installed this spring.
“We are pleased to name Tom Ferkol as the first Alexis Hartmann professor,” Shapiro says. “Dr. Hartmann became one of the Department of Pediatrics’ most esteemed physician-scientists over his long career at Washington University School of Medicine. He would be honored that Dr. Ferkol, a highly respected physician-scientist and expert in cystic fibrosis, holds this professorship in his name.”
“Tom Ferkol is an extraordinary quadruple-threat pediatric physician-scientist,” Schwartz says. “He is a superior clinician, a talented clinical and translational investigator in cystic fibrosis and related disorders, a wonderful and engaging teacher/educator and a deft administrator and leader. It was our enormously great fortune to have Tom join us at Washington University School of Medicine and lead our Cystic Fibrosis Center. He is a gem of a colleague, as well.”
Ferkol is renowned for his research on cystic fibrosis, which affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States, and primary ciliary dyskinesia, an unusual cause of persistent wheezing and cough in children. Estimated to occur in one of every 15,000 births, primary ciliary dyskinesia is a rare inherited lung disease that results in chronic infections of the respiratory tract. In his research, he found that primary ciliary dyskinesia is common among children and adults in the Amish and Mennonite communities in the Midwest.
His research also has focused on the development of cell and animal models to understand the underlying causes of chronic infection, inflammation and deterioration in cystic fibrosis. His laboratory has examined newer agents and alternative strategies for drug delivery to the infected airway. He is involved in the National Institutes of Health-supported Genetic Disorders of Mucociliary Clearance Consortium, a clinical research network created to improve the diagnostic testing and treatment of rare airway diseases.
Ferkol has been principal investigator on several National Institutes of Health, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, March of Dimes and American Lung Association grants. He has received numerous awards, including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation LeRoy Matthew’s Physician-Scientist Award, and was an American Lung Association Edward Livingston Trudeau Scholar. His research has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed publications, including the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Chest and the Journal of Pediatrics.
“I was surprised to be given this honor,” Ferkol says. “Dr. Hartmann was a pioneer in academic pediatrics, dedicating his career to scientific discovery, clinical care and education. Knowing what he meant to our field, it is truly humbling to receive this professorship in his name.”
Ferkol joined the faculty at the School of Medicine in 2000. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and a medical degree from the Ohio State University College of Medicine. He completed a pediatric residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also served as chief resident and clinical instructor. He completed fellowship training in pediatric pulmonology at Case Western Reserve University and was a member of its pediatric faculty from 1992-2000.
Alexis F. Hartmann Sr., MD, a native St. Louisan, spent his entire academic and medical career at Washington University, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1919, master’s and medical degrees in 1921 and later heading the Department of Pediatrics from 1936-1964. He also was physician-in-chief of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He became emeritus professor of pediatrics in June 1964 and died in September 1964.
As a medical student, Hartmann worked closely with Philip Schaffer, PhD, head of biochemistry; Edward Doisy, PhD, who later won a Nobel Prize; and Michael Somogyi, PhD, professor of biochemistry, to develop a technique to measure sugar in patients’ blood. This was an important step toward the discovery of insulin by scientists in Toronto.
This early experience treating children with diabetes led to a lifelong interest in the disease. He published a paper with Schaffer in 1921 on the “Schaffer-Hartmann Method” for true blood glucose analysis. His former colleague, Gilbert B. Forbes, MD, said that it was at Hartmann’s instigation that Carl and Gerty Cori began their studies of glucose-6-phosphatase in glycogen storage disease that eventually earned them a Nobel Prize.
In addition, Hartmann is well known for creating a fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy for infants universally known as Lactated Ringer’s solution, or Hartmann’s Solution. In 1932, he published two manuscripts in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that showed differences in serum electrolyte patterns in dehydration and described the use of the solution to treat acidosis in children.
Trained by W. McKim Marriott, MD, who headed the department prior to Hartmann, Hartmann also was an exceptional teacher with the ability to attract a new generation of pediatricians to the field. For three decades, he taught medical students and residents about diabetes mellitus clearly and without notes, and encouraged and supported junior staff in their research.
Hartmann headed the Department of Pediatrics during four building booms — in 1945, 1948, 1959 and 1963 — which added space for laboratories, wards and clinics. He also oversaw the racial integration of St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1950.
Among his honors were the Gill Prize in Pediatrics in 1921 and the first Abraham Jacobi Award from the American Medical Association’s Section on Pediatrics.
The Department of Pediatrics provided funding for the professorship.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.